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Follow Me: Windows 10 Cortana enhancements

Follow Me: Windows 10 Cortana enhancements

Windows 10 users heavily rely on the Tips and Get Started features to assist them. Good news could be coming their way with a possible launch of a Cortana-guided feature called ‘Follow Me.’ Should ‘Follow Me’ become a reality, users will benefit from more thorough assistance.

Possible new Cortana features

Cortana can perform several tasks, including answering basic questions, sending reminders, and adjusting your music player’s volume. With the introduction of ‘Follow Me,’ it will provide an audiovisual-guided navigation within your Windows computer.

Currently, Cortana is capable of providing voice prompts when providing search results. Based on this short video clip, the improved version will perform more complicated tasks such as providing users with visual prompts for pairing a Bluetooth device with their PC.

The new feature looks easy to activate and deactivate, too. To quit, users can simply press the escape key.

Follow Me for businesses

Many business users haven’t fully embraced VA technology. In fact, those who work in corporate environments don’t find them particularly useful, as they’re often seen as an unnecessary add-on that doesn’t do much beyond performing voice-prompted searches, taking notes, placing or answering Skype calls, and doing other negligible tasks.

However, VAs are becoming standard features in modern operating systems, which means they’re likely to see substantial improvements in the future.

Moreover, assistants like Cortana are useful to some business users that require quick assistance in finding information on their computers. And although they perform mostly small tasks, they also help speed up things like calculating and setting schedules.

What’s in store for the MS assistant

In early 2017, Microsoft demonstrated that Cortana was capable of performing complex tasks when it introduced the ability for users to set up their PCs with the help of its digital assistant. When “Follow Me’ is launched, it will be a logical next step to this recently introduced functionality.

Since the Fall Creators Update was recently launched, ‘Follow Me’ will likely be featured in upcoming Windows 10 updates. As of now, Microsoft tipsters continue to speculate about the digital assistant’s new capabilities as they wait for an official announcement from the software company.

If you wish to explore time-saving and productivity-enhancing tools for your company’s Windows computers, contact us today.


Hackers KRACK WiFi security

Hackers KRACK WiFi security

For ages, most people assumed that setting a strong password on their WiFi router was enough to prevent cyberattacks, but recent events prove otherwise. Two Belgian security analysts have found a serious weakness in WiFi networks, called KRACK, that puts your wireless devices in danger.

What is KRACK?
Simply put, KRACK, short for ‘key reinstallation attack,’ allows hackers to bypass WPA2 — a security protocol used by routers and devices to encrypt activity — and intercepts sensitive data passing between the mobile device and the wireless router, including login details, credit card numbers, private emails, and photos.

In extreme cases, KRACKed devices can be remotely controlled. For example, hackers can log in to your surveillance systems and shut them down.

What’s worse, Internet of Things devices — like smart thermostats and IP cameras — rarely receive security fixes, and even if some are available, applying patches are difficult, as these devices tend to have complex user interfaces.

The good news, however, is you can do several things to mitigate the risks.

Download patches immediately
According to recent reports, security patches have already been released for major platforms, including iOS, Windows, and Android. Router manufacturers such as Ubiquiti, Mikrotik, Meraki, and FortiNet have also issued firmware updates, so make sure to install them as soon as possible.

Although IoT patches are rare, consider getting your smart devices from reputable vendors that push out updates regularly. It’s also a good idea to contact a managed services provider to install the updates for you.

Use Ethernet connections
Some wireless routers don’t yet have a security patch, so while you’re waiting, use an Ethernet cable and disable your router’s wireless setting. Turn off the WiFi on your devices as well to make sure you’re not connecting to networks susceptible to KRACK.

Stay off public networks
Free public WiFi networks — even ones that are password-protected — in your local cafe should also be avoided because they usually don’t have holistic security measures in place, making them easy targets for cybercriminals.

Connect to HTTPS websites
If you do need to connect to a public WiFi hotspot, visit websites that start with “HTTPS,” and stay away from ones that are prefaced with “HTTP.” This is because HTTPS websites encrypt all traffic between your browser and the website, regardless of whether the connection is vulnerable to KRACK

Hop on a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
You can also use a VPN service to hide all network activity. Simply put, VPNs encrypt your internet connection so that all the data you’re transmitting is safe from prying eyes.

Although the potential impact of a KRACK hack is devastating, security awareness and top-notch support are the best ways to stay safe online. Want more security tips? Contact us today.


Apple Pay: Safe and secure transactions

Apple Pay Apple Pay: Safe and secure transactions

It was only a matter of time before our smartphones replaced our wallets. There are several mobile payment systems available today, but Apple Pay is one of the safest and easiest to use for small businesses. Read on for more details on why you should consider it.

How does it work?

Credit card transactions are more complicated than most people realize. There are a few middlemen between the merchant you purchase from and the bank that issues your credit card. Apple Pay simplifies the payment process by reducing the number of middlemen who have access to credit card numbers.

When you add a new card to the digital wallet on your mobile device, Apple works with the card issuer to create something called a Device Account Number (DAN). Once the DAN has been stored on your phone, with your bank, and on Apple’s servers — Apple erases your credit card number from its database.

To make a payment at a merchant that accepts Apple Pay, you place your phone near the payment terminal and your iPhone or iWatch will transmit your DAN over an encrypted connection (after scanning your fingerprint).

The merchant sends the purchase amount, your DAN, and a unique transaction code to the bank to be approved and checked against the records saved on your phone.

The time it takes to request authorization and approve the transaction is on par with swiping the magnetic strip in your wallet, but keeps your credit card number out of the merchant’s recorded history. And even if hackers were to decrypt and steal your DAN, it is totally useless without your fingerprint.

What do businesses need to accept Apple Pay?

All that is required to process a transaction is a payment terminal with Near Field Technology (NFC), which allows your phone to transmit encrypted information wirelessly. Apple Pay transaction fees are quite a bit lower than those of traditional card readers and NFC terminals range from $300-$500. Depending on what you sell, this method could pay for itself in a matter of months.

Aside from installation and integration with your existing sales and accounting software, Apple Pay requires little to no IT support. As an SMB ourselves, we view it as a way to improve the customer experience — and that’s what we care about most. If you need help with more technical support issues related to Apple products — just give us a call today.


Cisco to predict IT failures using AI

Cisco to predict IT failures using AI

Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk are not the only ones dabbling with AI and machine learning. According to Cisco, these technologies might be key to the future of IT system management and business continuity, both of which have grown increasingly complex over the years.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are extremely useful in helping us sift through massive amounts of information, and networking behemoth Cisco recently announced that they will be incorporating these technologies with two of their services.

Business Critical Services

This suite of services uses AI-powered automation, compliance, security, and machine learning analytics tools to reduce the complexity of IT systems management. It helps monitor the health of your business services and mitigate risks via automated compliance and remediation audits.

You can also replicate your network to improve reliability between your hardware and software components, and deploy features with automation capabilities.

Cisco High Value Services

This product support model provides network, software, and solution support using advanced analytics and best practices to access infrastructure performance and remediate issues. Cisco aims to improve business continuity and reduce resource constraints with remote monitoring, automated incident detection, and high SLAs.

Some of the services you can expect include software analysis, workflow integration, customer benchmarking, and predictive network analysis.

Using cutting-edge technologies as well as networking and hardware expertise, Cisco is gearing up its attempt to predict IT failures before they happen. That said, we assume it’s only a matter of time before other major developers follow suit, and when they do, you’ll be the first to know.

If you’d like to learn more about how to predict IT failures before they happen, or stay protected and operational when they do, just give us a call.


The right way to set up guest Wi-Fi

The right way to set up guest Wi-Fi

Customers, partners, and vendors expect internet access when they’re visiting someone else’s office. This is why guest Wi-Fi access is so common. But setting it up the wrong way can create a frustrating experience for people looking to connect and leave your company exposed to attacks. Here’s how to do it right.

Never give guests access to your primary Wi-Fi

While giving guests password to your company’s main Wi-Fi might be the easiest way to get them connected, you should avoid this at all costs.

Anyone with a little technical know-how can potentially access everything on your company network, including confidential data. Not to mention, guests’ devices connected to your business network increase the risk of a malware infection or cyber attack since you can never be sure that they’re safe and secure.

Ways to create secondary Wi-Fi for guests

If you router has built-in guest Wi-Fi support (you can check this feature through a quick web search) you could use it to create a separate “virtual” network. This means guests will have access to the internet without connecting to your main company network.

If your router doesn’t support multiple Wi-Fi networks, you can implement a separate wireless access point that bypasses the rest of your network and connects directly to your Internet service provider (ISP) connection.

Both options will keep your guests’ connectivity separate from your company network so you’ll never have to worry about unauthorized persons accessing your company data.

Keep in mind that guest Wi-Fi still uses your ISP connection so you should limit bandwidth usage on your guest network. The last thing you want is a guest streaming videos that slow down the Internet for your employees. With that in mind, you can even have your employees use guest Wi-Fi for their personal devices too. This minimizes the chance of employees hogging company bandwidth for personal use.

Your guest Wi-Fi should only provide outsiders with internet access, nothing more. While proper setup isn’t rocket science, it can be a tedious process. Having said that, if you need a team of experts to take care of it all for you, or simply have questions about how else to leverage your hardware for better efficiency and security, just give us a call.